Is Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s son the incarnation of Sharmapa Rinpoche?

A high lama of the Karma Kagyu touching the crown of his head to Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s son who is said to be the reincarnation of the 14th Shamarpa.

The opinion piece below was sent to for publication. We accept submissions from the public, please send in your articles to [email protected].



By: Matthew Sinclair

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje and his wife Sangyumla.

Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s decision in early 2017 to return his monastic vows and marry Sangyumla Rinchen Yangzom certainly raised eyebrows. It also emboldened detractors who doubt the legitimacy of his appointment as the Karmapa. These detractors believe another Karmapa candidate, Ogyen Trinley, to be the true Karmapa. Ogyen Trinley was originally recognized by Tai Situ Rinpoche and the Chinese government, and was also endorsed by the Dalai Lama. To the general public, the Dalai Lama’s decision inherently implies that Karmapa Thaye Dorje is not the genuine reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, Ranjung Rigpe Dorje. However, history disagrees.

Karmapa Thaye Dorje was recognized and enthroned in 1992 by the 14th Shamarpa, Mipham Chokyi Lodro (also known as the Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche). This was done in accordance with established Karma Kagyu tradition.

Within the Karma Kagyu tradition responsibility to recognize the Karmapa lies with four regents. In recent times, three of these regents have recognized competing candidates, confusing followers all over the world. Orgyen Trinley Dorje (left) was recognized by Tai Situ Rinpoche; Trinley Thaye Dorje (middle) was recognized by Shamar Rinpoche; and Dawa Sangpo Dorje (right) was recognized by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. In-fighting between supporters of these candidates continues until today, a fact that has fractured the tradition deeply. Add to this the fact that the Dalai Lama interfered by backing Orgyen Trinley, a move with no traditional basis, the schism became a heated debate within the Tibetan community. In response, Shamar Rinpoche claimed that Orgyen Trinley’s recognition was incorrect, that he had evidence of this and that the Dalai Lama had no business in meddling in the affairs of the Kagyu lineage. Now Orgyen Trinley, who the Dalai Lama and the CTA nurtured for a decade has abandoned them and prefers to have freedom as a citizen of Dominica.

The Shamarpa is regarded as an emanation of the Buddha Amitabha. ‘Shamarpa’ literally means ‘the one with a ruby red crown’, a reference to the Shamarpa’s red crown, which is an exact replica of the Karmapa’s black crown, only the color is different. The similarity between the Karmapa’s and the Shamarpa’s crowns is not a coincidence – it is meant to symbolize the equivalence and inseparability of their mind-streams.

To the Karma Kagyu, both the Karmapa and the Shamarpa are equal in attainments and spiritual accomplishments. Historically, the Karmapa and the Shamarpa have found and enthroned each other’s incarnations, and have worked in unison to preserve the Karma Kagyu lineage. In endorsing Ogyen Trinley as the 17th Karmapa, the Dalai Lama broke a time-honoured tradition that began in the 13th century, which dictates that only the Shamarpa has legitimate authority to recognize Karmapa reincarnations.

The 14th Shamarpa and Karmapa Thaye Dorje

Still, the unknowing public took the Dalai Lama’s cue and most now view Karmapa Ogyen Trinley as the real reincarnation – and Karmapa Thaye Dorje as the false. In June 2014, with the two-Karmapa controversy still unresolved, the 14th Shamarpa entered into clear light.

Whilst it was not immediately apparent, Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s decision to return his monastic vows and marry was not for ordinary and samsaric reasons. It was to strengthen the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu that has been weakened by decades of infighting and which has been further fractured by the two-Karmapa controversy.

In announcing his decision, Karmapa Thaye Dorje said,

“I have a strong feeling, deep within my heart, that my decision to marry will have a positive impact not only for me, but also for the lineage. Following the wishes of my parents, and having had time to reflect, I deeply feel that I am being true to both myself and the lineage. Something beautiful, something beneficial will emerge, for all of us”.

The Karmapa’s decision to assume the life of an ordinary person is not unprecedented in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. Highly-attained lamas have sometimes taken on consorts to facilitate the return of great beings into the world.

For example, the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje married and fathered three sons, one of whom was the 2nd Jamgon Kongtrul and another, the 12th Shamarpa. The Sakya lineage, known for producing great masters with high supernatural abilities, follows a succession of father and son; taking on consorts is very much part of the Sakya’s posterity process.

Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche

The practice is found even in the Gelug lineage. Serkong Dorje Chang took on a mysterious consort and their union produced the erudite Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche, debate partner to the 14th Dalai Lama.

In the same vein, Karmapa Thaye Dorje displayed a high level of attainments when he returned his vows and married. They are not ordinary acts but the first steps to actualize a divine plan that will benefit the Karma Kagyu lineage and all sentient beings.

A little over a year after Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s marriage to Sangyumla, the couple announced that they were expecting their first child. He was born in August 2018. It is now believed that Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s newborn son, whom they named Thugsey, is the reincarnation of the 14th Shamarpa, Mipham Chokyi Lodro. However, there has been no official announcement so far.

In early 2019, Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s official website posted pictures of His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche presiding over Thugsey’s hair-cutting ceremony. A hair-cutting ceremony is usually performed when a person is being ordained as a monk. However, Thugsey was merely a few months old and far too young to be ordained. The hair-cutting ritual is also conducted at another very significant juncture – in recognition of the reincarnation of a high-incarnate lama. This would explain Thugsey’s hair-cutting.

High lamas of the Karma Kagyu touching the crowns of their heads to Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s son who is said to be the reincarnation of the 14th Shamarpa.

In the weeks that followed, many Karma Kagyu lamas and scholars were seen touching the crowns of their heads to Thugsey’s feet. This is a sign of utmost respect and reverence, and is a firm indication that these lamas do not regard Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s son as an ordinary being.

While it is a private Karma Kagyu affair, Thugsey’s hair-cutting ceremony offers insights indicating that significant changes to the power dynamics of Tibetan leadership are underway. What was most obvious was the unmistakable absence of the Dalai Lama and officials of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Historically, each Tibetan Buddhist sect has had its own spiritual head and followed its respective sets of customs independently of the Tibetan government. This changed in exile. After 1959, the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) came to be mistakenly regarded as having supremacy and authority over all Tibetan Buddhists sects.

It became customary for the Dalai Lama to be invited to preside over all important ceremonies and functions. This suited the ambitions of the Dalai Lama coterie very well. In fact, in the earlier days of exile, there was an attempt to merge all Tibetan Buddhist sects into a single school under the sole patronage of the Dalai Lama.

This plan failed but it did not stop the Tibetan leadership from imposing its will on the various Tibetan Buddhist sects using a range of unscrupulous methods. Pleasing the CTA and the Dalai Lama, and seeking the latter’s patronage became a matter of survival.

The moment when His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche, the 75th head of the Ngor tradition of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism, cut the hair of Thugsey, symbolizing his taking refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.

The Tibetan leadership have mete out retribution against individuals or groups – like Dorje Shugden worshippers – that fail to fall in line. Against this backdrop, the hair-cutting of Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s son by Luding Khenchen Rinpoche instead of the Dalai Lama is telling. For a tulku of as prominent a lineage as the Shamarpa’s, it is expected that those who attend to young Thugsey would seek the highest and most respected lama possible to grace this momentous ceremony.

It is common for the Dalai Lama to be asked to play this role, given his ascendancy in exile, the reverence he commands, the prestige his name brings and for the high blessings that he is supposed to be able to bestow. That Karmapa Thaye Dorje did not request for the Dalai Lama to conduct Thugsey’s hair cutting says a lot about his views on the Tibetan leadership.

Firstly, it is an outright rejection of the Dalai Lama’s widely assumed spiritual authority over all Tibetan Buddhist sects. It is also a powerful statement declaring that Karmapa Thaye Dorje and the Karma Kagyu will not just survive on their own, but thrive.

His Holiness the 16th Karmapa Ranjung Rigpe Dorje (right) and the four Karma Kagyu regents. Sitting closest to the Karmapa is the 14th Sharmapa, denoting his rank as the second highest personage within the tradition.

If anyone has shown Karmapa Thaye Dorje that he and the Karma Kagyu can do without the support of the Tibetan leadership, then it is the Dalai Lama himself. He even declined to ordain the young Karmapa Thaye Dorje upon the request of the 14th Shamarpa. Karmapa Thaye Dorje thrived not because of the Tibetan leadership but in spite of it and, over the years, the reverence he commands has risen while respect for the Dalai Lama wanes.

Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s avoidance of the Dalai Lama and CTA should not be seen as an act of rebellion or even as insolence. Rather, it is a consequence of the gross misconduct of the Tibetan leadership that is increasingly marked by allegations of corruption, incompetence, sex scandals, infighting, interference in the internal affairs of Tibetan Buddhist schools and distortions of key tenets of Buddhism to suit their own purposes.

Karmapa Thaye Dorje is not alone in wanting to steer clear of the Tibetan leadership. Even the Dalai Lama-endorsed Karmapa Ogyen Trinley seems to have turned his back on the Tibetan leadership after leaving India in May 2017.

His newfound aversion is especially significant because he is said to have been chosen to succeed the Dalai Lama. Karmapa Ogyen Trinley seems to have decided that association with the Dalai Lama and CTA no longer carries the weight it did in the past. In fact, it is now an affliction given the way the Dalai Lama’s government has synthesized the practice of Buddhism with the Sino-Tibetan struggle turning adherents of Tibetan Buddhism into pawns for the CTA to mobilize.

H.H. the 16th Karmapa (foreground) and the 14th Shamarpa

Today after 60 years of political manipulations of the religion, the Tibetan leadership has never been weaker and more bereft of high lamas to lend it spiritual legitimacy. It has no Panchen Lama nor either of the two prominent Karmapas. The unlawful ban of Dorje Shugden lamas isolates it from the highest ranking tulkus in the Gelug lineage like Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche and Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche. The Sakyas are preoccupied with internal succession matters and cannot offer any real long-term support while the Nyingmas have never truly subjected themselves to the Dalai Lama’s rule.

Without these high lamas from the different sects, there is little with which the Tibetan leaders can command the loyalty of the Tibetan people. Politically, the CTA has lost tremendous ground and no longer enjoys the level of support from India and the United States it did before. Even Tibetan refugees seem to have given up on their own leaders with the number in Tibetan settlements in India shrinking from 150,000 to a mere 85,000.

It is clear now that the Tibetan leadership is slipping through the cracks created by the many fault lines of their own creation. Unlike the two Karmapas, those who continue to go along with the CTA’s ill-fated policies do so at their own risk and at the risk of the religious organizations they represent.

Please support this website by making a donation.
Your contribution goes towards supporting
our work to spread Dorje Shugden across the world.
Share this article
12 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. The Karmapa’s baby already looks like the Sharmapa! 🙏


  2. I do agree with Fred Spencer. At only a few months old, he looks so alike the 14th Sharmapa. It is common for reincarnates of high lamas to look like their previous lives. It is good that another high lama has re-entered our world to bring the Dharma to the many that are without. From his reincarnation, it can also be said that one does not need the approval of the Dalai Lama to be able to reincarnate back into the human realm, what more in the optimum conditions. This is so contrary to what the Tibetan Leaders claim, especially for those who practiced the protector, Lord Dorje Shugden. Too bad for them, many high attained Lamas had returned, ie. Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche, Kyabhe Dorje Chocktrul Rinpoche and even Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, had been formally recognized by the Dalai Lama. Weird don’t you think? Claiming Dorje Shugden practitioners will go to hell and yet the Dalai Lama officially recognizes them. What does that clearly tells you? Authentic Dorje Shugden practices are good for you! It helps you with a good human rebirth.

  3. Karmapa Thaye Dorje Ignores the Dalai Lama

    (1) Decades ago, the Shamarpa asked the Dalai Lama to endorse Thaye Dorje as the Karmapa. Shamarpa proved to the Dalai Lama that Thaye Dorje was the Karmapa. The Dalai Lama still refused as it will make the Dalai Lama look bad for endorsing Ogyen Trinley. ~

    It is known that Tai Situ Rinpoche recognized Ogyen Trinley by stealth. Tai Situ Rinpoche used the Dalai Lama’s fame to promote his Ogyen Trinley candidate in order to secure the Karmapa wealth of many generations.

    (2) Even though the Dalai Lama endorsed Ogyen Trinley as Karmapa, Thaye Dorje could not be restrained and continues to grow immensely in popularity all over the world. Even without the Dalai Lama’s endorsement, the Karmapa Thaye Dorje is growing in importance. Tai Situ Rinpoche thought that without the Dalai Lama’s endorsement, the Karmapa Thaye Dorje would fall and become nothing. He was wrong.

    (3) Shamarpa Rinpoche had asked the Dalai Lama to at least ordain Thaye Dorje as a monk when he was very young and the Dalai Lama refused. This refusal hurt Shamarpa and the Karmapa Thaye Dorje very much. The Dalai Lama sidelined Shamarpa Rinpoche and Thaye Dorje. It was a grievous insult and detrimental interference. In the Karma Kagyu tradition it is the Shamarpa who is the first and foremost to recognize the Karmapas and only in his absence do other regents recognize the Karmapas. Not only did the Dalai Lama interfere in Karma Kagyu affairs but the Dalai Lama took sides. That caused so much fighting and disharmony within the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism. Tai Situ Rinpoche was wrong not to consult with Shamarpa Rinpoche in all of this.

    (4) The Dalai Lama had no business interfering in Karma Kagyu traditions by recognizing a Karmapa. In the history of the Karma Kagyu school, there has not been one Karmapa recognized by a Dalai Lama nor did they ever need the Dalai Lama’s endorsement. This interference by the Dalai Lama has caused the Karma Kagyu school to take two sides and broke them up and created much disharmony. The disharmony, fighting and mud-slinging as to which one is the real Karmapa has continued to this day in 2019.

    (5) Shamarpa Rinpoche passed away in 2014 and it is up to the Karmapa to recognize his incarnation without the endorsement or interference of the Dalai Lama.

    (6) Now the Karmapa Thaye Dorje recognizes his son born in 2018 as Shamarpa Rinpoche’s incarnation and he does not ask the Dalai Lama to endorse this incarnation. He does not need it. The Dalai Lama has done enough damage. This will shift the dynamics of the Karma Kagyu school again in favor of the Shamarpa Rinpoche’s side. Unfortunately, it will make Ogyen Trinley look strange and left out in the cold. Within the Kagyu school, the Shamarpa is the next highest incarnation after the Karmapa. The Karmapas always recognized Shamarpas and vice versa. It shows that the Karmapa Thaye Dorje has the full authority to recognize the next highest incarnation within their school on his own. This Shamarpa will be spiritually trained by the Karmapa Thaye Dorje himself without the influence of the aged Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile which most Karma Kagyus consider a regime.

    (7) During the Kagyu Monlam prayers in Bodhgaya on January 2019, Thaye Dorje was there leading the Monlam (New Year’s prayers) and so was the Dalai Lama in Bodhgaya, giving teachings in another location nearby. The Dalai Lama, while in Bodhgaya, wanted to meet Thaye Dorje but Thaye Dorje refused. Thaye Dorje avoided the Dalai Lama. It was an insult to the Dalai Lama that he had to accept for all the damage he had done in their Karmapa affair and Karma Kagyu school.

    The Dalai Lama had sidelined Shamarpa and Thaye Dorje when asked to endorse Thaye Dorje decades ago. Now that the Karmapa Ogyen Trinley has run away to the USA, the Dalai Lama wants to be friendly with Thaye Dorje so that he can get on the Karma Kagyu school’s good side. Without the Dalai Lama’s permission, the two Karmapas met in France and decided to mend the rift. This will make the Dalai Lama look bad. Even the Dalai Lama did not think in such a big way or a middle way to help mend the rift. Too bad and too late for the Dalai Lama to make friends with the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism.

    So much damage has been done. But the Karmapa Thaye Dorje is on the way to mending all this.

    Karma Tsogyal


  4. Read the attachment


  5. 👍👍Long live the karmapa & shamarpa . Karma kagyud high lama karmapa & sharmapa we agreed that . Most happiness time . Karmapa kyeno


  6. It is such good news that the Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s son has been recognised as the Sharmapa. 🙏🙏🙏

    It is fully understandable that Thaye Dorje did not want to meet the Dalai Lama recently as so much damage to Karma Kagyu sect has been done and they certainly don’t want more. So better avoid any risk… 😅

  7. There are just too many confusions and problems created by CTA since the last century and two or even three Karmapas issue is just one of the many issues. I believe Karmapa Thaye Dorje is the real Karmapa and of course I also believe his decision to get married and to have a son must be due to spiritual reason. I have no doubt about that. Hence, I strongly believe Karmapa’s son is Sharmapa Rinpoche. The reason is clear. We cannot trust Tibetan leadership anymore. Of course Sharmapa Rinpoche knew it for long so he decided to take rebirth as Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s son. Only by doing this, he knows he will be in good hand.

  8. There is a possibility that Karmapa Thaye Dorje’s son is the Sharmapa, Tibetan leadership will surely try to get him on their side just that how they did at Kagyu Monlam because their Karmapa is not exactly in the right mind now. I do hope Karmapa Thaye Dorje will not get associated with them. it is bad news if he does.

    Look at what the Tibetan leadership did to Karmapa Ogyen Trinley. Karmapa Ogyen Trinley is depressed and feels like he is unworthy of being the Karmapa. He fled India and decided not to return to and even took up a Dominican passport. This is a loud testimony of how Tibetan leadership treated their own people.

    On the other hand, Tibetan leadership is the one who rejected Karma Thaye Dorje first and even refuses to ordain him. Now, Karmapa Thaye Dorje is doing well while Karmapa Ogyen Trinley is not doing so well and got himself involved in a relationship scandal. I guess Tibetan leadership is trying to get themselves a backup Karmapa in case the one they have now did not work out in the end?

    They tried to ambush Karmapa Thaye Dorje with the media at the Kagyu Monlam that he preceded but he was not there that day. I guess he must have heard and deliberately went missing to avoid them. The Tibetan leadership is such a bad company to have around because whatever they do is to get benefits for themselves.

  9. Agree with Dorje that Karmapa Thaye Dorje is doing better than Karmapa Ogyen Trinley. Although Karmapa Thaye Dorje is not recognized by HH Dalai Lama, he still can do well in spreading dharma. This showed that the recognition by HH Dalai Lama is not important and has no influence on Karmapa Thaye Dorje. Karma Kagyu lineage has its own tradition and process to recognize and enthrone Kamarpa without involving HH Dalai Lama.

    Congratulation to Karmapa Thaye Dorje for having his new born baby. It is believed that this baby will be a great being that is beneficial to many others in future.

Submit your comment

Please enter your name

Please enter a valid email address

Please enter your message

Show More
Show More

(Allowed file types: jpg, jpeg, gif, png, maximum file size: 10MB each)

You can now upload MP4 videos to the comments section. "Choose File" -> click "Upload" then wait while your video is processed. Then copy the link and paste it into the message box. Your video will appear after you submit your comment.
Maximum size is 64MB

Contemplate This

.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

Dorje Shugden and Dalai Lama – Spreading Dharma Together | Terms of Use | Disclaimer

© 2019 | All Rights Reserved
Total views:5,500,230